Designed by José María Sainz, the Punta Higuera Lighthouse was built to guide mariners in their passage through Mona Passage that separates the island of the same name from the rest of Puerto Rico. Constructed on high ground, it has a Mediterranean look from combined indented and exposed brickworks on its façade, windows, corners, and around doors, making the lighthouse resemble a castle, especially with a built-in parapet in brickwork designed like “lace” that topped an exposed cornice.
Although it has a castle “look,” which was emphasized further by red stucco stonework, the Lighthouse was a brick and stone dwelling of just a single storey building constructed around an octagonal-shaped tower. It had stone walls covered in white stucco to give them an appearance of baseboard rocks. On the 13th of January, 1893, the Lighthouse was activated using an oil lamp which was upgraded in 1913 to an oil-powered vapor lamp.
The earthquake that struck in 1918 damaged parts of the Lighthouse severely, albeit the tsunami that followed the earthquake did not dislodge it from position because of its sturdy location at the hilltop’s bluff. Nearby Punta Borinquen’s lighthouse, however, was rendered out of commission by both the tsunami and the earthquake. The Punta Higuera Light House was replaced with another constructed with reinforced concrete.
The Replacement Lighthouse
This replacement lighthouse has 12 inch-thick walls on a stepped base with a thick reinforced square foundation of three feet. It has precast steps, also made of concrete, extending from the base to the top which make up the spiral stairway. A frame structure with asbestos shingles for cover has been placed on the roof and sides to comprise the dwelling that measures 63 feet (length) by 26 feet (width).
Completed in 1921 and commissioned the next year, this replacement lighthouse suffered fire damage after the lighting became automated in 1933. Today, the Lighthouse has become popular with surfing aficionados, especially in winter when the waves are quite huge. The Lighthouse is also a favorite hangout of whale watchers who converge there for the passing humpback whales that migrate from January to March.
Awesome Whale Watching and Breath-taking Sunsets
The park around the Lighthouse gives visitors a panoramic view of a terrific backdrop in the form of Desecheao Island and, if you’re lucky, you might see dolphins swimming or jumping from the water. The park has restrooms as well as paved walkways and ramps for wheelchair accessibility. Oddly enough, there is a decommissioned nuclear reactor with a green dome just behind the Lighthouse.
The Punta Higuera Lighthouse remains operational today using an unmanned rotating beacon of 26,000 candle power. Admission to the Lighthouse’s park is free; ditto for the parking.
Don’t forget to drop by the Punta Higuera Lighthouse when you visit Puerto Rico for some beautiful scenic photography and watch the awesome humpback whales and breath-taking sunsets.